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"I play ‘M’ and like most best friends in movies, he is the guy that is there to at first to be sort of the foil to the main character," Corddry told us. "To support him and yet also be his worst enemy. To remind him that there is a ticking clock and we have to get to the 3rd act. And generally act as the opposite to the main character. The only difference is, in this movie, I mainly do that mostly with grunts."
Corddry was kind enough to give us a few pointers when it came to being a convincing zombie.
"It’s interesting because you, and you guys will be faced with this later today, you don’t want to be the George Romero zombie with their arms out and they can’t bend their knees," he said. "But also don’t want to be the 28 Days Later rage virus zombies because they’re just like wild animals. It’s sort of somewhere in between. It’s really like, they don’t feel pain, right? I tend to walk duck-footed in life, I just made ‘M’ very pigeon-toed and that alone changes my entire kind of body language. So that was kind of enough."
Once we were called to set we were given plum spots in front of the large gathering of zombie extras who had been waiting there all day for their chance to be on camera. I felt a twinge of guilt using my press credentials to get ahead of the crowd, but that's Hollywood for ya.
The scene involved Corddry and the crowd bracing themselves for an attack from above by "Bonies," the next step in zombie evolution which are essentially zombies who have been that way for too long and lost all of their humanity. What's left is impossibly bony monsters who serve as the evil antagonists of the story.
"This is sort of my action bad-ass scene," Corddry confirmed. "Which I love. I’ve got a couple of those, [Eastwood voice] ‘Don’t worry about it, I’ll go get ‘em' type of lines! And, 'Take care of the girl I’m gonna go kick some ass!' I’ve got a couple of those lines in the movie and today I’ve got two of them. So that’s what I’m doing today. I’m being a bad-ass zombie."
Indeed he was, but unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your disposition) the French-accented extra wrangler Assistant Director made a weird gesture when instructing us for how to react when the CGI Bonies crash through the glass roof above. When it came time for the first take and we were cued, we all made the same simultaneous movement, which made us look like rejects from Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video. Corddry immediately burst out laughing as we all held the pose, and Levine came over with a "That sucked" expression all over his face. We then did it again with more variation and naturalism, and I was told that my fat, Jonah Hill-esque person was featured prominently on the video village monitors, so I hope to see myself in the final cut!
All the while Levine projected a very chill attitude, sitting cross-legged on the floor as the scene played out, and working very collaboratively with the actors.
"He knows exactly the shots that he’s doing and where the story is and the arcs of the story," said Palmer of her director. "I think we’re working harder because we have a leader like Jon Levine who is just pouring his heart and soul into it, but also just being super-friendly and supportive of everyone. "
"I actually have less time to work with the actors because there’s more going on," said Levine of taking on the large project, which the studio Summit hopes will turn into another Twilight franchise for them. "On 50/50, even though it was 8 million dollars, it was all acting intensive. So we would sit down and talk about it and really get into it. And with Nick and Theresa we had a lot of rehearsal time so we were able to talk about it, but on the day we just have to do it."
So how will Levine and Hoult ultimately imbue lifeless corpses with humanity and make a romance that borders on necrophilia palatable for mainstream America?
"We create our own mythology," said Levine. "There’s voiceover in the movie so the degree to which it will be explained is still being determined, but we definitely have our own rules. For Nick we’re looking more at Edward Scissorhands instead of than ‘R-Patz’ or whatever. Hopefully, and I think he is, he’s endearing enough that people will overlook the eating brains part. Everyone has some negative things that they bring to a relationship!"
"Through the voiceover you get to see more of his sense of humor and frustration," Hoult said, "and perhaps a glimpse of what he was before. I really like her, but... It always goes back to that feeling of wanting to communicate with her. Playing that song is one way to reach out to her. Trying to communicate without using words but also very very subtle things without moving your face too much that show you're not a zombie anymore. He's trying to connect to Julie but he can't. He's wants to say all these wonderful things to her but he can't."
Ultimately we had to look to Corddry to tell us the real burning question we all had on our minds for a star-crossed undead romance: Can zombies get boners?
"Do I think zombies can get boners? Uh, no. Absolutely not. But I think that towards the end of then movie when they start becoming more human, I think ‘M’ is probably the first to experience one."
Warm Bodies shambles into theaters everywhere on February 1st.